Definition of family: The Western world regards the family as consisting of two or more people who consider themselves related by blood, marriage, or adoption; also known as a nuclear family. The extended family includes grandparents, aunts, cousins, etc.
The changing family: At one time families worked together on farms, family trade, etc. They worked as a family to provide for the family. Parents instilled in their children morals, and values, taught them right from wrong and the consequences for their actions. With the industrial age, the man left the home to work in factories while the wife remained home to tend to the running of the household and raising the children. As women increasingly entered the work force, the socialization was shifted from the home to the school and other community organizations. Once a major function of the family, to contribute to the learning and practicing cultural values and beliefs is now left up to day care providers.
Race-ethnicity, does this play a role in the breakdown? Race-ethnicity does not show significant information for understanding the family. However, social class and culture holds the key. For example: Americans tend to marry within the same social class and Asian-American families tend to be more permissive with child rearing and more likely to use shame and guilt to control their children’s behavior.
Children of divorce: The laws make it easy for parents to divorce on grounds of “no fault” or “irreconcilable differences”. The United States has the highest rate of divorce in the world. Most parents that are divorcing are so consumed with their own problems that they do not prepare their children for the divorce causing children to become confused and insecure. Parents will “use” the children against the other as means to get what they want or to vent their hurt feeling about the break up. Divorced parents diminish the strength of their families by rejecting each other.
This alienation of family members weakens the child’s ability to value commitment to the family and themselves. Most children of divorced parents see only one of their parents once a week, however one of the parents usually stops seeing the children altogether. An increasing number of fathers are assuming the role of the single parent in the U.S. today. Children of divorced parents have more anxiety and hostility and are more likely as grown ups to get divorced themselves.
Government Programs and their contribution to the breakdown in families: Statistics show the poverty rate among married couples is 5.7%; compare this with single-parent families, whose poverty rate is 33.4%. These lead women to welfare dependency, which over the last 30 years has discouraged the two-parent families among the poor. Government programs and policies have contributed to societies collapse by discouraging work and responsible behavior. These policies have also contributed to the soaring rate of divorce and out of wedlock births, causing even more welfare recipients, more crime, more health and behavioral problems, lower educational achievement and prospect of obstacles later in life for these children.
Viewpoint from Social and Scientific research: Children of single-parent families are more likely to be poor and have emotional and behavioral problems as a result they will abuse drugs and get in trouble with the law. Social and scientific research shows that children in families disrupted by divorce or born out of wedlock perform considerably worse academically, socially, and economically than those with two parents. Married parents have higher expectations of their children than parents with illegitimate children even when the children have the same intelligence and performance abilities.
What are the consequences of the breakdown of the traditional family for American society? We performed some interviews with people of various ages and occupations. Here is a summary of the results:
Families are no longer learning and being assisted with raising children from information being passed down by those with knowledge and experience. Childcare is not provided by people with an innate love for the child and common family values, it is provided by professional strangers in businesses. Parents tend to leave the instillation of morals and values up to the day care providers or the school systems. The schoolteachers have an academic curriculum they are required to fulfill. Children are expected to have a basic knowledge of social interaction, letter and number identification, writing their names and tying their shoes before entering the school system. Parents do not dedicate time to the learning of these skills, which leaves them behind academically, causing lower self-esteem and a lack of enthusiasm in learning.
Parents, single or married, do not spend enough time communicating with their children. As a result children do not learn how to act or interact with others. This decreased their ability to engage in conversations, especially when there are opposing viewpoints, resulting in not learning from one another, sharing ideas, developing a tolerance or an understanding for different viewpoints.
There is a lack of rules in families today and when there are rules they are not consistently enforced. This causes children to not take responsibility for their actions or to respect authority. Because there are not enough rules, children are becoming more involved in juvenile crime. These families (parents and children) blame other’s, friends or do not see the seriousness of what was done when confronted by law officials. This pertains to children from all social classes.
Parents enforce materialistic properties as a way of life. Parents put themselves further indebt to purchase “name brand” articles for their children. Which causes children to believe it is not who you are or what you do that counts it is what you have. This economic burden on the family means there is a decline in “family time.” This lack of family time allows children to rely on the model of the media and television which glamorizes violence, sex, possessions, alcohol, and irresponsible behavior.
There are many views of how the government has and will contribute to the family by a means of financial support. However, it was the consensus that we have been headed in the right direction with government programs, seeing a substantial decrease in welfare dependency.
The emphasis on family values should not be a criticism of single parent families. There are many loving, caring single parents who are truly capable of raising their children. Children need the influence of both a male and female parents in their lives. Therefore, the single-parent way of life may not be universally the “best” way of raising children but there are times it is the best suited for the circumstances. For example: when there is physical abuse, alcoholism, incest, drug abuse, or other irresponsible behavior by one of the parents.
In conclusion: The decline of the nuclear family has lead to poverty, poor health, unhappiness, lower educational achievement and anti-social behavior. With this people have forgotten how to socially interact, have become socially isolated, and depressed; resulting in higher crime rate, neglect and abuse, and lower educational achievement. These people are caught in the cycle of poverty, divorce and continuing education. Consequently, there is a decrease in the utilization of community recreation resources, volunteerism, political activity and civic responsibility.
The high rate of illegitimacy and divorce has resulted in disastrous emotional injury to children. This means a massively weakened future for America. Even if these rates decline and hold within the next year, the effects on the children now being raised in broken families would be felt for generations to come.